Estate Sale Q’s & A’s

Just what is an estate sale – is it different from a garage sale?

There is a difference, and it has to do with the size of the sale, quality of the merchandise, the reason for the sale and professionalism of the sales staff.

Garage sales enable private individuals -- homeowners -- to move unneeded or unwanted items, which are essentially clutter, out of their homes and at the same time make a little pocket money. They’re often motivated by the desire for “a good cleaning.”

Traditionally, estate sales were held after the passing of the last family member in a home, but today, estate sales are also done when a homeowner has moved to a smaller place or a healthcare facility. Usually most of the belongings in the home are offered for sale. Ordinary household items are sold, but estate sales often include valuable property too. After proper appraisal, art, antiques, jewelry, furniture, collectables, and appliances -- nearly anything that is not prohibited by law -- might be offered. Like garage sales, estate sales are open to the public, but they are run by professionals, and the professionals have an advantage -- a regular clientele following their sales and the knowledge of what is good to sell and how much to sell it for. The proceeds, after the estate liquidator’s fees are deducted, go to relatives or the estate of the deceased, or to the person who is downsizing.

If I decide to have an estate sale, what does JS Allen Estate Sales do for me?

JS Allen Estate Sales team knows from personal experience that downsizing your own household or disposing of a family member’s belongings is daunting. It is time-consuming and can be physically and mentally exhausting.

You will need to choose which belongings will remain in the family. We cannot make those important decisions for you. However, we can offer expert advice in helping you choose what to keep, sell, donate or discard. Once you’ve made your decisions, we will conduct a clean, well organized sale to turn unwanted items into cash and help empty the home for showing and sale.

We conduct two-day sales, Fridays and Saturdays. Items for sale are pre-priced with a tag, with firm prices on the first sale day, discounts and bargaining on the second to boost interest in unsold items. To keep crowds manageable, the number of buyers allowed into the home at any one time is limited.

I want to sell the house too. Will the sale interfere?

Holding the estate sale before putting the house on the market certainly prevents conflicts between the sale and home showings, but most of our clients do engage a real estate agent prior to the estate sale. This requires some coordination between your agent and myself, but does not cause major problems, and even offers some advantages. Buyers attending our sale are often the first to express interest in the house and spread favorable word-of-mouth about it, and we are always happy to take names of interested customers, pass out your real estate agent’s cards or provide your agent’s informational flyers.

Setup for the sale involves removing everything from storage, sorting through it, and then pricing it. This takes a minimum of two days, often longer, and during this time the house will look disorganized. The sale itself is two days plus cleanup afterwards, so there is a period of time when the house will not show at its very best. You, your real estate agent and JS Allen should coordinate events so the home will always show well.

One more thing: we are not home inspectors, but sometimes we find problems that would affect any sale of the house. We have discovered a gas leak requiring immediate repair in one home and an insect infestation in another. We will report such problems to you immediately so the home can be made safe and ready for sale.

What are my responsibilities?

JS Allen Estate Sales depends upon its good reputation to bring in business. We treat belongings with the care and respect they deserve, and we run sales which are clean, organized and fair to both buyer and seller. We want you to be pleased with the results of the sale, and we want buyers to leave your sale happy and to remember it with pleasure. We ask your help in doing this.

Help us make your sale attractive.

Please do not ask us to sell items which are badly damaged, worn or dirty. They will not sell, and they do not truly represent the previous owner. These items should be discarded.

Clean merchandise speaks well of the previous owner and suggests that items have been well cared for. Such items attract the buyer’s eye and sell fast. We make every effort to make things as clean and attractive as possible in the short time we have to prepare.

Similarly, we recommend that you make your sale more successful by having bushes trimmed, the lawn mowed and the walkways cleaned if it is at all possible. An inviting entrance brings in more sale customers and attracts the attention of potential home buyers as well.

Consider carefully which items you are ready to sell, and once you decide to offer them for sale, stick with your decision.

You can always add to the sale later, but once items are included in the sale, and especially once advertised, nothing should be removed, given away or sold before the doors open on the first sale day.

The public has a right to expect advertised items to be there, for sale, when the sale begins. Regular estate shoppers check the internet often, and we post photos as soon as possible to create interest. Imagine shoppers’ feelings when they anticipate the sale for a week or more, drive for miles, wait in line, then discover that the very special object they came for has been removed and is not for sale.

We emphasize this because we have had clients expect us to bring in buyers by advertising things they ultimately did not intend to sell. Simply put, this is deceit -- and we refuse to do it. All involved in the sale must be fair to the public.

And we ask that you be fair to us too. JS Allen Estate Sales is a sales service, and our income depends on the sale of merchandise. We make no charge for cleaning, research or appraisal. But let’s say an oil painting will be in the sale; the whole family thinks it’s ugly, nobody wants it, and it would go in the trash except the family thinks it might bring $10 when we sell it for them.

If we determine that the painting is in fact worth $1000, and suddenly the family no longer wants us to sell it (because they can sell it themselves and avoid paying our commission), is that fair? After all, we recognized its potential, researched the artist, contacted art dealers and established its value at a hundred times what the family would have sold it for.

If you remove articles from the sale, remember --

  1. Removing previously advertised items may cause future advertising to be curtailed. If we show a group of ten dolls in an advertising photo and one of the dolls is later removed, we can’t in good conscience continue running that photo.
  2. We will charge commission on removed items, just as if they had been sold.
  3. We may refuse to conduct the sale if we feel removals have been egregious.

How do I know I’m getting the most money for my things?

Of course every sale is different, but experience has given us a good idea of what will sell and what won’t. We price accordingly, putting a fair maximum dollar amount on items that sell well, and then trying to make the ugly ducklings attractive by offering them at very reasonable prices.

Pricing special merchandise -- We have expertise in many fields. We certainly don’t know everything though, so we spend considerable time researching special items, both on-line and via conversations with experts in regional and national markets. Only then do we price those items to bring in the maximum amount possible.

Please remember though, the northern Indiana market is not the same as New York City or Los Angeles. We price according to the market we are in.

Many of our clients tend to overvalue their belongings. That’s natural. But please remember that your things are used and will not command new prices, even in excellent condition. Likewise, prices peaked for antiques several years ago, and yours may not bring what could once be expected.

If you check values on the internet, look for an exact match of what you have, but don’t assess value by looking at asking prices. Look at what sold items actually brought; even then you are likely to see big variations in what was paid for the very same item.

If you think our pricing on something is absolutely wrong, let us know and we will discuss what you want. But remember that your primary goal is to clear the home and go forward. Especially near the end of the sale, be as flexible as you can.

When the sale ends, an item that stays in the house because it was overpriced becomes just a donation, or worse, a white elephant.